Last night, Guy Boucher called out his team’s maturity. He (correctly) pointed out that the Lightning play a full 60 minutes when it seems they “need” to against top teir teams, but then they have losses like last night against Ottawa that make you wonder why this team was leading their division in the first place.
This is one of those intangibles that brings teams to the next level. The Bolts have a chance tonight to pull within 2 points of the 1st place Capitals in the division, but they must first get through the Panthers.
Of the four previous games between the in-state rivals, the Panthers have won three of them. The Panthers have been a thorn in the side of a few teams this season, and the Lightning are one of them. Tampa has to learn to beat not only teams it maybe shouldn’t, but how to beat teams it should.
Tamps is still on a slide at a bad time. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, and with the postseason only a few short weeks away, the Lightning need to be getting into playoff mode. This comes back to what Boucher was talking about last night: mentality.
One thing this team has failed to do this season is prove its mental toughness. They have been riddled with inconsistency, breakdowns, and letdowns. That kind of play is indicative of a team that hasn’t “gotten it” yet. The Red Wings have been a team that “gets it” for almost two decades now. Completely professional, knowing exactly what they need to do and get the job done.
The Lightning aren’t there yet, but it takes time. This is the first year in a while in which they have spent most of the season at the top of the standings. Most of the team was just put together over the summer. This is just step one of a team that will be high in the league for the next few years. These are the kinds of growing pains they are going to have to deal with, and with each loss comes a lesson.
Will they learn from those lessons and adjust? That’s what we will begin finding out tonight.